Why do haunted houses always go for the slow build? If a house really wanted to trouble its inhabitants, why start slowly with the faint creaking noises and fleeting glimpses, while holding off on the big guns—full-on manifestations, terrifying strobe lights, slamming doors—until after everyone has settled in? It’s almost as if they wanted to drag out the haunting to feature length.
The house in The Haunting In Connecticut proves as inefficient as the one in Amityville, the primary inspiration for a movie that borrows liberally from plenty of other horror movies. In a 20-minute stretch, director Peter Cornwell throws in shots that, to use the polite term, pay homage to both The Exorcist and The Shining. Maybe it isn’t Cornwell’s fault. The Haunting In Connecticut is based on a “true story,” after all, specifically the story of the Snedeker family, who bought a former funeral home that had been turned into a private residence, then claimed they saw the spooky nonsense people claim to see. Not content with the usual bullshit, the film adds in a kid (Kyle Gallner) dying of cancer, which lets him see spirits more easily. And such spirits they are! Turns out the funeral home was home to some pretty strange stuff, all helpfully explained in a breathless bit of exposition following a trip-to-the-library montage sequence.
As a piece of storytelling, The Haunting In Connecticut is pretty lazy. As a horror movie, it’s lazier still, bringing out every annoying shock-cut and disorienting sound-design trick of the last decade. Both Gallner and Virginia Madsen, who plays his mother, give credible performances amid the silliness, and the finale does find some disturbing imagery. But the big special-effects showpiece involves Gallner excreting streams of pillowy ectoplasm from his mouth, which should only frighten those who’ve never mixed too much tequila with too many tacos. Alternate tagline: You will believe a boy can barf.